I love places that have stories. Bayberry Beer Hall has a story, and they share it with their guests on the last page of every clipboard-style menu. The name Bayberry was chosen by the owners, Tom and Natalie Dennen, as a tribute to their Grandfather Morton. He owned a log cabin in coastal Maine. The cabin was called Bayberry because of the wild bushes that grew beside it, a plant that “embodied the unyielding American spirit” — enduring the harsh winters to return and thrive year after year.
More than endurance, however, this log cabin represented hospitality, and that is what Bayberry Beer Hall hopes to achieve: a German-American biergarten designed to welcome the community as family, and to get patrons in community with one another. Thus, their tables are all community tables, their bar is long and their space is open.
Welcome to the newest addition to the West Side of Providence.
My first introduction to Bayberry was with my church pastor and a large group of Sanctuary brethren, as one would expect. This new spot had only been open for a week, but on this Friday night, business was already booming. Tables were full, conversations filled the cavernous space, the ceiling lights — reminiscent of Christmas bulbs — gave the impression of an outdoor alleyway in Dresden, Germany.
Not to mention, there are a lot of plants. Despite the very modern architecture, they’ve mimicked an outdoor garden inside this otherwise unassuming building. An entire wall appears to be covered with ivy, which upon closer inspection is actually a metal framework holding multiple levels of potted philodendron (or at least that’s my best botanical guess). This same design is used to create a decorative window of potted plants that extends from floor to ceiling as soon as one walks in. And on the two external walls, bricks of varying shades of red and crumbling white, give a historical vibe. This place is an interesting mix of industrial and artistic.
As I took in the scene that first night, I immediately spotted Mike Ryan, the publisher of Motif, who wore a fancy hat and stood a head taller than everyone else. Beer-in-hand, he told me this was his eighth visit or so, which was impressive given the beer hall had only been open for eight days. “It speaks to my German heritage,” he explained. With the recent closing of Faust, we were all in need of another establishment to fill the niche.
I was overwhelmed, so I quickly chose one of their ciders (they have options!) and foraged my friends’ smorgasbord of meats and pickled vegetables, along with bites of the hand-cut pappardelle and eggplant bharta. I sincerely regretted having eaten dinner before I arrived. (For the record, my friend Morgan had the chicken schnitzel sandwich, and she recommends it to all readers).
On my second visit I was prepared. I arrived at 4:30pm and beat the crowds — although barely. By 5:30, the community tables were filling up, and at 7:00, the only available seats were at my cozy nook table in the back corner (my friend and I shared the space with strangers, since that’s what community is all about!). We each opted for the beer flight, a selection of three local brews, and because I am beer-challenged, I needed advice.
I told the bartender the truth: “The beers I like most have been brewed with coffee. I don’t suppose you have any of those?”
“Actually,” she said, “we just got a breakfast stout that would be perfect. It’s brewed with both coffee and chocolate.” Say no more, I’m in! That gem was made by Founders, an 8.3% ABV, and I loved it. The other two beers I chose were Lord Hobo’s Glorious, one of the bartender’s favorites, and the Allagash Curieux, which is a bourbon-aged tripel. Much to everyone’s surprise — most notably my own — I deemed Allagash the winner! I can now add bourbon-aged beer to my list of must-haves.
To complement our flights and the hour of happiness (otherwise known as Happy Hour), my friend and I chose an array of small snacks: the sourdough pretzel with mustard butter, the pickled vegetables with an addicting aioli, and fried potatoes tossed with garlic, parsley, and lemon zest. We were given light-up pagers to notify us when the snacks were ready, and it didn’t take long before we were well into enjoying this German biergarten in the heart of Providence.
As colder weather approaches and we start seeking respite from the chilly outdoors, remember the enduring spirit of Bayberry and head to the beer hall, where a community of hearty New Englanders comes together to flourish despite the harshest winters.
Bayberry Beer Hall, 381 W. Fountain St, PVD